The story of  my wedding dress 

My boyfriend proposed to me with a wonderful summer wedding in mind, and I got a remarkable opportunity to fulfill the dream of making my own wedding dress. Designing and sewing the wedding dress was a carefully planned project that I spent 350 hours working on throughout our six months of engagement; the dream dress project began in January and the dress was ready a few days before our wedding in late June 2014. This is a display of my dressmaking adventure from beginning to end - the making of an exquisitely handcrafted couture wedding dress. I may already reveal that the elaborate design involved 51 m2 of silk and 139 separate parts (not including the tulle petticoat consisting of 32 m2 of stiff net).

How I sewed my own wedding dress is divided into the following sections:




Looking for inspiration

First, I looked for inspiration and sought knowledge about the current bridal fashion on the Internet and in the bridal salons in Copenhagen while also reading a few books on the subject. Throughout the quest for a perfect wedding dress, I found the above designs the most breathtaking and enchanting.
Pictured from top left: Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden in a dress by Pär Engsheden in 2010, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark in a dress by Jørgen Bender in 1967, Elizabeth Taylor in Father of the Bride in a dress by Helen Rose in 1950, Kate Moss in a dress by John Galliano in 2011, Grace Kelly in a dress by Helen Rose in 1956, Cate Blanchett at the Oscars in Armani Privé in 2014, Crown Princess Mary in a dress by Uffe Frank in 2004 and Duchess Catherine in a dress by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen in 2011.

I believe wedding dresses are chosen with much care because women dream of an eye-catching dress that gives them a wonderful sensation and captures the magic of the occasion. Personally, I desired to learn more couture sewing techniques and thereby improve my dressmaking skills while I was working towards a classic bridal look: a traditional white, full-length dress with a train and a boned bodice. It was important to me that the dress was contemporary and suitable for the church ceremony and the garden party afterwards. I drew several different designs and soon decided that the wedding dress should be made of ivory silk duchesse including silk lace appliqué with floral motifs.

The Grundtvig's Church, where we were married, has an approximately 45 m long aisle and therefore provides a lavish display for a romantic fairytale wedding dress with a long bridal train. With that in mind, I designed a detachable train for the ceremony. I pondered how to execute this idea for some time. In the end, two different bridal looks were achieved by designing an open-fronted detachable train inspired by the eighteenth-century gown style; robe à l'anglaise, an open robe consisting of an overskirt, which parts in the front to reveal a matching underskirt. I did however keep from making a dress that was too inspired by historical costumes even though it was tempting. The dress was also designed with a chapel length train of its own underneath the cathedral length detachable bridal train.


Finding the fabric

In the beginning of January, my mom, my two sisters and I went looking for fabric. I brought my vintage Brussels lace bridal veil to several stores to make sure the fabrics matched. Furthermore, we brought home fabric samples from each store. However, when the perfect natural-fiber fabrics were found, I was swept away: heavy silk duchesse and lace embroidered silk organza. Silk duchesse is a luxurious fabric that is both timeless and elegant. To me, it is the epitome of a wedding dress material. The stunning lace embroidered silk organza was used as ornamentation and it gave a decorative and textured effect with a delicate appearance.

At the time of the fabric shopping, a rough idea of the wedding dress was thought out. This was needed to calculate the amount of fabric to be purchased for a strapless princess-line gown with an A-line skirt, a small train and a sweetheart neckline together with some kind of bolero and a detachable cathedral length train. Early design sketches were brought to the fabric stores so the experienced saleswomen/couturiers could confirm that the chosen fabrics were adequate.

In February, I bought 17 by 1.40 m lustrous ivory silk duchesse and 3 by 1.40 m ivory lace embroidery on silk organza that was carried home on a large fabric roll. I also purchased 22 by 1 m ivory Chinese shantung silk for backing and lining, and I already had 10 by 1 m ivory habutai silk in my fabric stash; my future mother-in-law who had bought it in Thailand as a lining fabric gave this to me. There was not much fabric left after finishing the wedding dress: only 1.90 m of silk duchesse, a few scraps of the silk lace, 1.50 m of shantung silk and 2.50 m of habutai silk.




By March, I reached my final wedding ensemble design after having made multiple fashion drawings. 
In the initial stages of the design process, I decided that the dress should not shape the body, but have a soft fit that could make the fabric come to life as it would move with me, thereby giving the dress a feminine silhouette with a bodice that appeared to be molded on the torso. The dress emphasizes the curves of the body by having a figure-hugging built-in corselette foundation. Moreover, the dress flows fluidly from the bust to the hem in an unbroken line, with the close-fitting bodice contouring the figure and the full skirt flowing to the ground - on top of a billowing tulle petticoat. The sumptuous design has a minimalist silhouette yet a romantic fairy princess style that fit the groom's tailcoat wedding attire.
In addition, the extra train is attached to a belt that looks like a wide sash and emphasizes the waist. The train is unadorned and has a sculptural cut resembling an unfolding flower as I walk down the aisle. Furthermore, a sheer embroidered blouse is worn with the detachable train. My neck was left bare, unencumbered by jewelry, and thereby the blouse displayed the décolletage with an attractive low V-shape neckline resting at the very tip of the shoulders. The blouse covered the otherwise low-cut back of the wedding dress and featured short upwardly curved set-in sleeves reminiscent of flower petals. I wore my hair down and it was adorned with the ethereal Brussels lace veil and a glittering tiara that was fastened with the hair clips that fastened my mother's veil at my parent's wedding; those hair clips were my "something borrowed".


Drafting the entire pattern from scratch was a thrilling part of the process; fitting the bodice, and tailoring the fullness of the skirt and the shape of the chapel length train was exciting. At first, I took my own measurements and then drafted a flat-pattern out of dressmaker's pattern paper. The pattern was tailored by shaping seven individual panels.

 
My bridal shoes were also purchased in February, and therefore the height of the dress form and the length of the dress pattern could be adjusted. The bridal shoes are a pair of lovely ivory satin Rainbow Club Jackie pumps with a charming 6.25 cm heel. Those shoes have the perfect height for me and have no embellishments that can rip or tear the hem of the dress.

 For underpinnings, a corselette and a separate tulle petticoat were necessary to support the design.
It was essential to start the construction by perfecting the corselette. Several alterations were made on a toile and eventually a perfectly fitted mockup corselette was sewn of cotton coutil with herringbone texture. I put the coutil corselette on the dress form and adjusted the form, to fit the corselette so that it duplicated my figure. I actually wore the corselette outdoors for a few days to make sure it was comfortable, as I did not want to feel any restriction in my movement. Wearing the corselette and other strapless dresses out in the sun also prevented unintentional tan lines before the wedding day. The corselette has a hook-and-eye closure in the back, and the top and bottom edges are bound with bias tape. Later, this corsetry technique was repeated to make a silk corselette that was sewn into the interior of the wedding dress and as a result worked as a boned underbodice.
The tulle petticoat features a buttoned waistband positioned at the natural waistline which is attached to a free hanging lining with five layers of tulle sewn in three tiers with rolled hems all supporting the skirts fullness.

A toile is an essential part of making a wedding dress. This technique is also known as making a muslin garment. It means that you sew up your design in cheap material to make sure your garment pattern pieces come together as planned, to test your look and make adjustments before cutting your fashion fabric. Every pattern piece was cut on the lengthwise grain both the muslin and the silk fabrics for the wedding dress, and a 2 cm seam allowance was used on all sides.

The wedding dress was designed so that it arches into the shape of the train, making the hemline shorter in the front. It is noteworthy that the dress form wore the corselette and the tulle petticoat underneath the toile so the shaping of the toile skirt was done on top of the petticoat.

A toile must always be fitted on the wearer to be absolutely certain everything is perfect. The dress had to feel right, and therefore there were many fittings throughout the construction process. The structured dress had to be soft and flexible which was the reason for not wanting to wear a crinoline underpinning but a tulle petticoat.

The placements of the embroidery appliqués were drawn onto the toile with a pen and then the design was traced to pattern paper. The lace embroidered silk organza had scalloped edges on both sides, which was utilized in the design.

Furthermore, I wore the toile to our wedding waltz lessons after our teacher had recommended it. The dance lessons also gave me chance to break in the bridal shoes, which meant that by the time of the wedding they were so accustomed to my feet that they could be worn without stockings. Besides, our teacher advised me about which lining seam the wrist strap for dancing should be sewn into.

The belt for the detachable train was designed as a sash that was cut in one piece on the crosswise grain. To create the curved belt pattern the coutil corselette was used as a base. My fashion sketches called for the belt to be wider in the center-front than in the back.

The many toiles were coming together. On the left is the toile for the detachable train, and you might glimpse the toile's chapel length train through the extended cathedral length train. On the right is the toile for the silk organza blouse, along with the rest of the bridal ensemble. When every single toile was fitted (dress, blouse and belt with the detachable train), they were all traced to dressmaker's paper.

Before cutting the ivory silk fashion fabric, a mockup gown was sewn from blue satin. The weight and drape of this fabric was similar to the silk duchesse that was going to be used for the wedding dress. The blue wedding gown was neither backed nor lined; this way, I could tell that I wanted to use both methods on the real dress to give it more shape.


By May, I finally cut out the silk fabrics. Every piece was cut out single layer. To make sure nothing was slipping, I used books as fabric weights. Furthermore, plain white dressmaker's paper was placed on both sides of the silk fabric with the squared pattern pieces carefully placed on top, to make the cutting even less slippery. The square patterning on my pattern pieces were placed parallel to the selvedge of the fabric.
Silk duchesse is a heavy satin that is characteristically stiff, shimmering and glossy. It is woven in silk and reflects light beautifully. Nevertheless, the structural support for the wedding dress included lining and backing - also known as underlining. Both lend body to the fashion fabric and give the garment shape. Therefore, I also cut out a backing in Chinese shantung silk and a lining in habutai silk. The applied Chinese shantung silk made the duchesse opaque, making the seam allowances invisible from the outside of the dress. The Chinese shantung silk I used is more lightweight than the heavy silk duchesse fabric, making it ideal for backing. Besides, shantung has an uneven texture and handwoven appearance, while habutai silk is a very lightweight plain weave silk that is known to wrinkle less than other fabrics.

On May 23rd, every single garment piece was cut out and it was time to start sewing. The Chinese shantung silk backing was applied to the wrong side of each silk duchesse section before assembly. I only used pins within the seam allowanceThe two layers were then handled as one when the lace embroidered silk organza was added and the seam lines were sewn subsequently.

Sewing for hours on end on my Husqvarna Lily 535 sewing machine that I got for Christmas when I was eleven years old.

Lots of brand new long pins was used when sewing the silk dress, and the needle in the sewing machine was changed frequently; that way, the fabric was not damaged by the pins and needles. The sewing machine was set for slightly longer stitching than usual to avoid wrinkles at the seams. Ivory colored polyester thread was used in the lengths of the princess seams.

The face layer of the dress had lace embroidery on silk organza appliquéd to it.
The scalloped edge was hand sewn to the silk duchesse with silk thread and stabstitches.

The corselette for the wedding dress had spiral steel boning inserted and was made of Chinese shantung silk. The corselette also had a grosgrain ribbon sewn to the waist to make the most vulnerable seams stronger; this was sewn to the fabric before the boning channels. Seven tipped bones were put inside the dress's foundation; they were custom-made from 7 mm wide spiral steel boning, purchased in one continuous length and cut into the desired lengths with wire cutters. In addition, each tipped bone was cut approximately 1.5 cm shorter (including metal caps fastened with tape) than the seam it was meant to stiffen. The extra room above and below the closed boning channels reduced any bulk or uncomfortable poking at the neckline. Moreover, no machine needles were broken and no fabrics were ruined when attaching the corselette to the face layer of the dress or the skirt lining by attempting to sew through steel.

Once again checking the fit of the corselette that has been attached to the skirt lining on myself. The corselette has bust pads attached with catchstitches to enhance the figure and create a smooth bustline.

This is the lining of the dress before it was attached to the face layer of the dress. 
Even though couture dresses are often unlined and merely backed, I chose to have lining in the dress, because I wanted the feel of the wonderful silk duchesse next to my skin instead of boning channels. Besides, I knew that the lining would be showing during our wedding waltz. The corselette was lined with silk duchesse making the bodice of the dress consist of four layers of silk, since the face layer of the dress was backed. The silk duchesse bodice lining was inconspicuous if it peaked out while I wore the dress. The skirt is lined with habutai silk.

The sweetheart neckline on the shell of the dress and the lining were sewn right sides together. Then, the neckline was clipped, notched and graded and the dress was turned right-side out. Afterwards, the seam allowances and the lining were pressed away from the shell fabric, and the layers were understitched close to the neckline to hold them together. Understitching is a straight stitch only visible on the lining, which keeps the lining from rolling towards the right side of the dress. The same method was used on the hem. The edge of the hem on the shell and lining was turned up and sewn right side together (the zipper was not fully installed by this time and therefore the hem was accessible through the back seam of the dress). The seam allowances were subsequently clipped, notched and graded, and understitched to the lining very closely to the garment edges, before the dress was turned right-side out once more. Using this method, the lining did not show on the outside of the dress at neither the neckline nor the hem.

Clipping, notching and grading the seam allowances on inside of the dress and pressing the seams open by stitching them to the backing with silk thread.
This method used on the silk duchesse and the Chinese shantung silk backing created a smooth transition and avoided any bulking at the seams.

The belt that carried the weight of the detachable train had boning inserted. Later it was backed, lined, and hand sewn with slipstitches to the cathedral length train. A slipstitch is used to permanently join two layers from the right-side of the garment and it works perfectly with curved seams.
In addition, the pieces of the train that unfolds like wings or flower petals on the front of the dress are lined with self-fabric. The hem on the detachable train, which goes all the way up to the belt, and its lining, were sewn right sides together and finished on a serger - also known as an overlock sewing machine; this ensured a minimal seam allowance that was not visible through the fabric. Afterwards, the edges were carefully pressed with a clothes iron set on a low temperature.

I hand-sewed a grosgrain ribbon waist stay to the center and sides of the inside of the dress with cross-stitches. The waist stay was measured on its own: I took a piece of grosgrain ribbon, fit it around my waist, pinned it, and sat down to make sure it was comfortable yet snug and close-fitting. Such ribbon should always be a tiny bit shorter than the actual circumference of the inside of the dress, because it has no ease; therefore it is folded in the middle and sewn to place at intervals. The waist stay closed with hooks-and-eyes before zipping the dress. With a waist stay, the dress fits better and strains less at the delicate zipper; the close-fitting bodice stays put, and the weight of the skirt is supported.


The beautiful and unique silk fabrics my mother, my two sisters and I chose for my mother’s dress and the bridesmaids’ dresses.
My mother's strapless dress was made of embroidered silk dupioni and had a boned bodice attached to a gathered skirt. The bridesmaids' dresses consisted of: Corsets, with decorative box pleats attached to the sweetheart necklines, additionally laced with matching grosgrain ribbon in the back, and half circle-skirts with narrow waistbands all made out of gorgeous pink silk dupioni. All three of them wore identical raspberry pink tulle petticoats and pink shawls made from Italian Pucci silk crepe satin.
While I was making their dresses and shawls, my wedding dress and the belonging accessories was stored in either a muslin bag that was custom-made for the purpose, or an acid-free cardboard box made especially to store wedding dresses or other valuable garments in.


On June 10th, I went to a MAC store with some friends to purchase my bridal makeup and get a customized look that would complement the wedding dress and my skin tone. I had brought inspirational photos to the appointment, and inspired by those the makeup artist skillfully emphasized warm golden colors in my skin and hair. I had little more than two weeks to learn how to perfect the look on myself, since I wanted to do my own makeup on the day with the products that were handpicked for me.

This is how I put on my makeup on my wedding day:
On my face, I wore the MAC Mineralize Foundation Loose Powder in the color Light, which was dusted on top of the MAC Complete Comfort Cream with a MAC 188 small duo fibre face brush, along with a tiny bit of MAC NC20 Pro Longwear Concealer dabbed on with a MAC 286 duo fibre tapered blending brush.
For the eyes, I got a MAC Pro Longwear Paint Pot in the color Groundwork, which was used as a base applied with a MAC 239 eye shader brush. I had bought a custom MAC Pro Palette consisting of four eyeshadows: Blanc Type (Matte2), which was used as an all over lid and brow bone color applied with a MAC 217 blending brush, Wedge (Matte) and Swiss Chocolate (Matte) were both used in the crease and applied with the same 217 blending brush, and Brun (Satin) was applied in the outer-V and on the lower lashline with a MAC 219 pencil brush. I added a subtle shimmer and highlight on the inner corners with the lightest color from the Chanel Ombres Contraste Duo in the color 20 Taupe Délicate, which my little brother - the groom's best man had bought me, and which I had worn when my boyfriend proposed. Furthermore, I lined my eyes with MAC Blacktrack Fluidline eyeliner using a MAC 266 small angle brush along with a MAC 210 precise eyeliner brush to create the perfect winged eyeliner. A MAC NC15/NW20 Chromagraphic Pencil was used on the waterline, and the eye makeup look was finished with MAC False Lashes Waterproof Mascara.
For the eyebrows, MAC Fluidline Brow Gelcreme in the color Dirty Blonde was applied with an angled brush.
The Limited Edition Pedro Lourenço x MAC Corol Blush Duo was applied with a MAC 168 large angled contour brush, and as a finishing touch, I dabbed Rosebud's Strawberry Lip Balm on the lips.

Furthermore, my perfume was: Viva La Juicy Noir by Juicy Couture, which my boyfriend had given me for Christmas a few days before he proposed, and on our nails the bridesmaids and I wore: All in one base, the color Lovie Dovie and Good to go by Essie.

I styled my hair in soft waves with Schwarzkopf Got2be; 2 Sexy big volume push up volumizing hairspray which I personally think smells like raspberries. Afterwards, the veil and the tiara were fastened.

By this time, the bridal bouquet, the bridesmaid's bouquets and the boutonnières for the groom, the best man and my father had already been ordered. The florist had received a fabric sample of the wedding dress and the bridesmaids' dresses to inspire the look of the flowers. I did not see my bridal bouquet, or any of the other flowers, until I arrived at the church ceremony and I was delighted with the outcome: pink roses, lily of the valley, baby's breath and evergreen ivy.


Showing off the low-cut back of the dress. A 35 cm invisible zipper was inserted in the back of the dress and on the back of the detachable train.
A couple of days before the wedding, my mother and sisters came by to ensure everything about the dress was perfect, since my fiancé was still not allowed to see the dress. My mother and sisters also inspected the hem of the skirt; a part of dressmaking that will always have the best result if it is taken care of while the client is wearing the garment.

The vertical seams at the waist are perpendicular to the floor and are placed to flatter my figure.

On the right: the dress' chapel length train is 1.80 m measured from the natural waistline. On the left: the detachable cathedral length train measures 2.60 m from the natural waistline. The marvelous vintage veil is handmade Brussels lace and was my “something old”; it is about 100 years old. On the morning of our wedding my fiancé and I exchanged gifts, and he gave me a beautiful gold bracelet that became my "something new".

At this point I was very excited about trying out my homemade wedding dress, even though I still had to finish the lace embroidered silk organza blouse.

Finishing the V-neck lace embroidered silk organza blouse three days before the wedding. The sheer blouse was worn on top of the dress and tucked into the wide belt. The blouse frames the face and appears like a portrait neckline. It has a hook-and-eye and an open-ended zipper in the back, which allowed the blouse to be put on and taken off easily. It was designed to look like a part of the dress, an overlay rather than a bolero, and therefore I made sure the seams and darts in the blouse matched the seams of the dress. I used hairline seams, which mean that the fabric is sewn right side together, and subsequently stitched with a narrow zigzag-stitch and then trimmedThe edges that were not scalloped were baby-hemmed, also known as double-turned.
The dress with the petticoat, blouse, detachable train, veil and tiara weighed approximately 5 kg in total.

The last thing that was sewn before the wedding was the bridal garter. This was made of a silk ribbon and some elastic woven through a piece of white lace ribbon all of which my younger sister had in her fabric stash.


My mother on her way to the church with the best man - my younger brother.

My beautiful bridesmaids.

My father and I walking down the aisle along with my sisters as bridesmaids.










The wedding dress was not revealed to anyone but my mother and my sisters before the big day. Therefore it was much anticipated by many of our guests, who all knew I had made it myself. I still remember sitting in the back of a Rolls Royce, on my way to the church ceremony, accompanied by my father, two sisters and our chauffeur, getting a look at myself in glass between me and the front seats and thinking: "Wow, I am a bride".
When we arrived at our party, after the church ceremony, the bridesmaids helped me remove the detachable train and the blouse. Our guests were surprised by the change and seemed to think that the bride had either worn two dresses on top of one another or had changed into a different dress. To me, it was amazing to have achieved different looks, and it almost did feel like having two different dresses: one for the church ceremony and one for our garden party. At the same time, I loved wearing one dress all day, which was the original concept and vision for my wedding dress. By midnight, the veil and the tulle petticoat was removed, and the bridal pumps were replaced with glittery strappy flat sandals that made it easy to dance and party with our guest.

It was immense fun to make my wedding dress, and it has been delightful to describe the journey almost like a wedding dress diary. It was a challenging and enjoyable experience; one that I would never have been without and that made the dress all the more special.